A little more than a week away from the NFL Scouting Combine, I wanted to take a look at some of the prospects I think would match very well with certain teams. This may be because of certain needs, scheme fits or just the type of players they are looking for. Since picks one and two seem to be set in stone pretty much, unless somebody shakes things up completely by trading up until then, we are starting with the team selecting at number three and work our way down the board, taking stops where I see a certain fit. Obviously this still heavily depends on what’s going to happen in free agency and the positions that will be filled up to that point, but for now these prospect-team pairings would make a lot of sense.
Detroit Lions – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
With the Darius Slay news this is an even more obvious connection, but even before those came out I had the talented Buckeye corner next to this team. The Lions play more man-coverage than any other defense in the league. Okudah is as good a corner prospect as we have seen since Jalen Ramsey His combination of size and speed is off the charts and he has the play to back it up. Even if they keep Slay on the roster, he is starting to enter the twilight of his career. Assuming them trading away Matthew Stafford was just noise, since he was playing at a near-elite level before getting hurt last season, this should be a slam-dunk pick. The only question is if Detroit will actually select the Ohio State DB at number three, since that pick might be extremely valuable if all the quarterbacks outside of Joe Burrow were available when they are on the clock. With the Giants being at four, who already drafted a corner in the first round last year, as well as the Dolphins and Chargers seemingly being locked in at the QB position, both of them could be candidates to make a deal with. The biggest threat for the Okudah sweepstakes should be Carolina at seven, so Detroit could potentially pick up that 26th pick from Miami or a player to build around if L.A. offers it to them. Either way, I could easily see them getting their best fit and another very good players, as long as nobody jumps ahead to two and they keep their leverage. Even though Chase Young would be a pretty nice consolation prize if the quarterbacks go one and two.
Miami Dolphins – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
Since everybody started talking about the Dolphins “tanking for Tua” pretty much since they got blown out in Baltimore week one, I don’t see why the Alabama QB wouldn’t ultimately be their target. Just because they did compete at a pretty high level towards the second half of the season, doesn’t mean they are settled at the most crucial position in football. Josh Rosen didn’t even last three full games after they traded for him during last year’s draft, so they clearly don’t see him as an option going forward, and a 37-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t be anything more than a short-term solution. Tua has been as prolific a passer as we have seen in the SEC for a two-year span, with natural throwing skills, and he is the type of high-character guy you want to build a team around as well. If it wasn’t for the hip injury, we would probably discuss between him and Joe Burrow as the top signal-caller available. However, he might not be there at number three, if some other team decides to trade in front of them, so they may need to spend some of that draft capital they have collected to secure their guy for the future. Thankfully they have two more picks in the first round, which they acquired from trading away Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. If they are lucky enough that Tua actually falls to them at five, they could find direct replacement at those positions.
New York Jets – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
Sure, the Jets desperately need help at corner with one of the worst groups in the NFL trotting out there every week, and they are still looking to find that true difference-maker rushing the passer off the edge, but they have plenty of cap space and there are several guys hitting the open market at both positions. Instead, the focus should be giving help to their young quarterback Sam Darnold in the form of receivers and most importantly the offensive line. Gang Green allowed 52 sacks on the season (4th-most in the NFL) and their rushing average of 3.3 yards was tied for dead-last with the Dolphins, whose leading rusher was the just-mentioned Ryan Fitzpatrick. That is even more concerning when you consider that they mostly had Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, who has flirted with 2000 scrimmage yards three times during his tenure with the Steelers. To be honest, I think the only spots on that O-line the Jets are happy with is right tackle with last year’s third-round pick Chuma Edoga and center Jonotthan Harrison, who missed six games last season, so I could definitely see them double down on day two. Georgia’s Andrew Thomas is probably the most “pro-ready” tackle in the draft and worth that 11th overall selection – unlike the interior guys. While Kelvin Beachum played an okay season, New York needs a guy manning the left side for the future and you could still slide Beachum inside if you want to keep him on the roster.
Atlanta Falcons – Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The Falcons were one of the most disappointing teams through the first half of the 2019 season, as it took them until week ten to earn their second victory. They ended up winning six of their final eight games and Dan Quinn was allowed to stay in Atlanta, but that defense was absolutely horrendous early on. While a lot of their problems were due to miscommunication, coaching mistakes and flat-out bad play in coverage, I think if their personnel is healthy they can be pretty good and they proved that to some degree from their bye-week on. The main concern for me is the defensive line. The Falcons were on pace to set a new all-time low in sacks for a season through the first eight games of 2019 and they have already made it public that they will not engage into conversations about a new deal for their reigning sack-leader Vic Beasley. So edge rusher is definitely is a priority as well, but with Chase Young being a lock for the top three and no clear option behind him, this is something they will likely address with a proven commodity on the open market – also because they just invested a first-round pick in Takk McKinley two years ago. Instead I think the big Auburn D-tackle would be a great fit for them. Brown is tremendous run-stuffer who can play anything from true nose to three-tech and he can create push up the middle in the pass game. This would allow Atlanta to not play Grady Jarrett out of position for parts of the game anymore and give whoever rushes off the edges to turn a tighter corner.
Philadelphia Eagles – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
To me this is the most obvious pick in the draft and if Ruggs is available at 21st overall, GM Howie Roseman should personally swim across that pool at Bellagio to pick up his new receiver. The Eagles receiving corp was just decimated by injuries at the end of last season, with nobody from their week one lineup available from December on. Sure, they could look at the corner position once again with Ronald Darby hitting free agency and no consistency on the outside throughout their roster, but if you believe in Carson Wentz – and they already showed him with a big contract last offseason, which he validated by carrying his squad to the NFL East title – you have to surround him with pieces that will help him succeed. Philly’s duo of tight-ends is the best in the entire league and with Miles Sanders catching heat as the season went along, it is really about guys who can make plays for him outside the hashes, most importantly someone who can stretch the field. DeSean Jackson was brought back to where he started his career last offseason after looking like he had plenty left in the tank, but he was basically out the entire year outside of a big performance in week one. Alabama’s Henry Ruggs will probably run somewhere in the 4.2s next week at the combine and he would give the Eagles exactly what they need. Not only would they finally have somebody, who can threaten the safeties to back off and give them more space to work underneath with their tight-ends and backs, but he can also be a weapon on jet sweeps, quick screens or just run away from the defense on crossing routes.
Seattle Seahawks – Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Seattle has refused to listen to me and invest draft capital in the offensive line in recent years, so I have given up hope that they will finally do so this year, and they have a very impressive receiving corp now. However, with the way people talked about the Seahawks defense last season, I think most of them would be surprised to learn they allowed the sixth-most passing yards in the league, despite ranking top ten in times of possession. There’s still a lot of questions about the D-line, with Jadeveon Clowney’s and Ziggy Ansah’s contract running out, but assuming they will at least sign somebody to play defensive end, I am looking at the cornerback position. Shaquill Griffin has been playing very well for them in his three years in Seattle, but they need to find a running mate for him they can trust. Tre Flowers has the measurements you are looking for in a that single-high cover-three, press-bail scheme, but he hasn’t been consistent enough, getting burned over the type on several occasions. The newest LSU corner has all the traits you want while having put together the tape to back it up. He is a better prospect than his former teammate Greedy Williams, even though another young corner kind of outshined Fulton last year – but that just seems to be the standard in Baton Rouge. He would immediately upgrade the pass defense and give their rush more time to get home. Another guy in that mold would be Alabama’s Trevon Diggs.
Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
While Baltimore’s number-one ranked scoring offense somewhat masks their limited talent at wide receiver, I am looking at the defensive side of the ball. With two All-Pro corners and having just extended rising safety Chuck Clark, they are pretty settled on the back-end, but linebacker is a position they could use an upgrade at. LSU’s Patrick Queen has really shot up draft boards this season, after entering the starting lineup for the Tigers at the end of last year, when Devin White went down with an injury. He is a dynamic player in space, who can cover a lot of ground in coverage and has the closing speed to break on underneath routes, as well as being able to shoot downhill in the run game or come on green-dog blitzes. The loss of C.J. Mosley in last year’s free agency has left a void that Queen would be a great replacement for. However I will say that this largely depends on if the Ravens manage to re-sign Matt Judon, because if they don’t, they should be looking at edge rusher and possibly a hybrid player like Wisconsin’s Zack Baun, who they can use standing up but also let him rush the passer on third downs. Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is another option, but having a former teammate of likely first overall pick Joe Burrow would be pretty sweet to have against their division rival Bengals.
Buffalo Bills – Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
It is no secret that the Bills have the smallest receiving corp in the league, with their top three receivers measuring in at 5’11”, 5’8” and 5’8” respectively. While John Brown quietly might have had his best all-around season as a pro and Cole Beasley had some nice performances for them out of the slot, they need that big-bodied wideout, who can make plays vertically and bail Josh Allen out if he isn’t perfectly precise. Pittman was incredible in several games for the Trojans and through two days of Senior Bowl practice, where basically nobody could cover him and he didn’t even need to use his catch-radius too much. Obviously a guy like Tee Higgins at the back-end of round one could be a target for them as well, but the USC receiver somewhere around pick 50 seems to be a sweet-spot for Buffalo. Pittman shows remarkably quick feet for a big guy to defeat press and he is a long strider with excellent ball-tracking skills on vertical routes. Moreover, he only dropped five of 176 catchable passes during his collegiate career and would give the Bills’ young signal-caller a lot of confidence by handling what’s coming his way. With Devin Singletary really coming alive late during the year and in an excellent Wildcard performance, as well as tight-end Dawson Knox coming into year two, who I really liked out of Ole Miss, this offense could make Buffalo a serious threat to finally win the AFC East, if they can add a couple of pieces.
Tennessee Titans – Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
One of the surprise teams of the 2019 season, the Titans rolled all the way to the AFC Championship game with a monster at running back in Derrick Henry and a defense that made big plays when they needed them to. The biggest question for Tennessee will be if they can find a way to re-sign Ryan Tannehill while handing out a big contract to Henry as well, but assuming they find a way to keep that end the way it is, with some talented young players at the skill positions, this makes me shift my focus on the defense. Not a lot of teams have spent more money and draft capital on the secondary in recent years, which has allowed the Titans to be very versatile on the back-end and I love their duo of young inside linebackers, but if there is one area they need to improve at, it is the pass rush department. Harold Landry will be a fixture for this defense for years to come, but Tennessee needs somebody to come off the opposite edge, especially without Dean Pees drawing up creative ways to create pressure. At 38 years old Cameron Wake is a short-term solution at best and with the money that will be needed to keep the offense in place, they should be looking to the draft. As I mentioned before, there is a huge drop-off after Chase Young when it comes to edge defenders. So instead I am looking more somebody who can fit the bill on day two. Anae recorded 13 sacks for Utah last season and would complement Landry really well as more of a power-based rusher. While there are guys with more upside, he can make an impact right away.
Los Angeles Rams – Austin Jackson, OT, USC
While this might not be the most glaring departure for casual NFL fans, when I look at all the roster there are few holes that stand out to me more than what the Rams will potentially have at left tackle. Even with reports that he will postpone retirement for another year, L.A. needs a long-term replacement for Andrew Whitworth. The Rams O-line took a huge step back in 2019 with Rodger Saffold headed to Tennesse and injuries playing their part. The front-five got a lot better once they inserted their two rookies, they are hoping for other day two picks to pay off down the line. Joseph Noteboom is the only one on that roster that I feel would be suited to play left tackle, but he missed almost all of 2019 with an injury already. Instead, they might go with another promising lineman early in the second round by trading up for Jackson, who will be a hot commodity if someone doesn’t pick him up opening night. While I don’t love what I see from the USC tackle right now, he has the tools to physical develop into a very good player. Jackson could start out at left guard and immediately improve the O-line, even if his best days are still ahead of him. Plus, he could learn from one of the game’s best potentially, if they decide to not put him out there right away.
Green Bay Packers – Van Jefferson, WR, Florida
While that demolition by the 49ers in the NFC Championship game has left a bitter taste in the mouths of Packers fans, they took a huge step forward last season. Aaron Jones became a superstar dual-threat back, they have become one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league and they finally took some pressure off number 12 by putting an offense around him that gives him more easy completions off bootlegs and different screen passes. What they still need is a consistent number two receiver to go along with Davante Adams. Geronimo Allison, Allan Lazard and others have stepped up in some spots for them, but none of them have contributed for them in the necessary capacity on a weekly basis. Jefferson is a very-well developed route-runner as a coach’s son, who would fit that role perfectly. While he never quite reached the 700-yard mark for the Gators, the four-year receiver always came through when called upon for an offense that could rarely rely on their passing game. After wrapping up his collegiate career, Jefferson completely dominated pretty much every matchup he faced during Senior Bowl week, showing the ability to attack the leverage of DBs, snapping off his route with authority and attacking the ball in the air. In a wide receiver class that is absolutely loaded with talented, you can find values throughout the draft and I think Jefferson could be a great target for Green Bay in the middle of day two.
New England Patriots – Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Before we know the status of Tom Brady, we can’t really be certain about anything with the Patriots, but I would be shocked if they were to take a flyer on whichever quarterback falls to them towards the end of the first round and not acquire a dependable veteran to run the ship. Regardless of if the all-time great is returning to New England, the lack of talent at the skill positions was evident last season. Belichick rarely invest high draft picks in skill position players, so if they add more receiving options, it won’t be with another first-rounder like they did on N’Keal Harry almost a year, but probably somewhere in free agency. Unless there is a tight-end hitting the market that the Pats really like, I could see them look at that position during the draft. Trautman could be a perfect target on day two and upgrade the position immensely. The Dayton standout had a huge Senior Bowl week, showing the ability to be an in-line blocker as well as a great overall receiver. He won’t be a very well-kept secret come late April, but he is the kind of prospect you could see New England go after. This really isn’t a great class overall at the position, but with some teams reaching for those big slot receiver types early on potentially, Trautman might be available when Belichick & company are on the clock with pick number 87. This is unless he gets hyped a little too much during this process.